Ready to remediate: the final call for Central Asia's enduring uranium legacy

16/06/2016 09:53
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, June 16, 2016, Asia-Plus -- The wheels have been set in motion to tackle the problem of uranium legacy mining sites in Tajikistan.

According to the Delegation of the European Union to Tajikistan, a joint mission by the European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to Tajikistan from June 15-17 focuses on the next steps to take together with Tajikistan.

EU efforts have consistently aimed at facilitating the rehabilitation of radioactive and contaminated mine sites to mitigate the environmental and public health risks faced by the Tajik people.  A comprehensive report listing hotspots and remediation priorities in Central Asia was developed in 2010 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and it is now being consolidated as part of a Strategic Master Plan for the region.  The EU has already provided over €9 million for detailed environmental impact assessments and feasibility studies at legacy sites in Central Asia, including at the Tajik legacy sites of Taboshar and Degmay.

The EC is spearheading a program to raise awareness among both the donor community and the Tajik population of the upcoming remediation works.  A key milestone of these efforts was the establishment of the Environmental Remediation Account in 2015, a vehicle to channel international efforts to find long-lasting solutions to the severe environmental problems related to former uranium mining and milling activities in the region.  The first meeting of the Assembly of Contributors to that Account will take place in July 2016 in London.  Chaired by the EC, it will gather representatives from Tajikistan and other partner countries, as well as the international donor community.

The European Union has contributed €16.5 million from the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC) to make the fund operational.  The EU is now working together with other international partners to attract further contributions for these crucial remediation works in Central Asia.  The EU's INSC is promoting nuclear safety culture, responsible safe management of nuclear waste and nuclear safeguards worldwide.

The EBRD manages seven donor funds providing support to increase nuclear safety and reduce radiological risk in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  To date, the 45 donor countries and institutions have pledged over €4.0 billion to EBRD-managed projects.  The biggest project is the transformation of Chernobyl into an environmentally safe and secure site.

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